Check-ins to break-ins: How social media helps burglars

Check-ins to break-ins: How social media helps burglars

Whether it’s that #nofilter shot of a sunset, the “hot dogs or legs” photo, or checking in to an intimate beach-side dinner, many of us love to show the world what we’ve been up to on our holidays. 44% of people post to keep friends and family up to date, but 21% admitted it was to brag to their online friends1. You know who you are!

However, a more sobering statistic is that, according to ADT alarms, 78% of burglars use social media to target properties2. Thieves are using a variety of methods to work out when houses might be empty, and even work out what’s worth stealing.

You may not even realise your privacy settings are set to public, as various social platforms’ default settings allow your information to be viewed by anybody. This includes everything from your photos, status updates, and sometimes even GPS location. It’s a genuine issue, so what can we do about it?

We spoke to the Managing Director of, Anthony Neary, to find out how you can protect yourself online and at home.

Common mistakes on social media

The times that we tend to post on social media, as mentioned above, are when something good happens; whether that’s a birthday, a promotion, or a surprise trip away. One of the things Neary noticed is that people “tend to post about their latest gift or expensive purchase, usually around Christmas time. A burglar can sometimes easily identify a worthwhile burglary from the types of things we post on social media.” Just ask Kim Kardashian.

He also says, “Tagging your location, such as at the airport, is advertising your empty home to anybody who has access to your profile.” Over a third of people we asked said they posted updates throughout their vacation, and almost one in ten (9%) post a holiday-related update as soon as they leave the house, on their way to their destination3. You wouldn’t leave up a sign outside saying you’re on holiday, but social media posts act as just that for people whose profiles aren’t private.

Similarly, something as simple as tweets about your commute can give away your daily habits - including the perfect time for an uninterrupted robbery.

The smartest burglars are even using things like Google Streetview to inspect entry points and work out whether your house looks like a good target. Additionally, with new updates all the time (such as Snapchat location services) it’s becoming easier than ever.

So, what to do?

Luckily there are plenty of ways to protect yourself from these opportunistic burglars.

  • The first thing to do is update your privacy settings. This can be done on most social media sites fairly easily, and Neary’s advice is, “keep sensitive information about yourself private or only visible to close friends and family.”
  • Next, think about what you’re actually posting. Is it really worth showing your latest laptop purchase or the fact you’re not home for two weeks? Wait until you’re home to share holiday snaps, and don’t tell strangers about big purchases.
  • Be aware that some apps have GPS trackers. If your location is switched on on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you might reveal your address to thieves.
  • Don’t forget the usual home security measures, as even if burglars know where you are, this will hopefully stop them getting in.

Aside from the obvious downsides of having your home broken into, if you’ve advertised your home is empty, some insurers will take this into account.

Coming home to a burgled house would be a very nasty surprise made even worse by the fact it was preventable. Err on the side of caution so you can enjoy time away from home without worrying.

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Additional Sources

[1]Aviva Travel Report: Digital Destination – June 2017
[3]Aviva Travel Report: Digital Destination – June 2017

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